The Zika virus is an enveloped virus and belongs to the genus Flavivirus of the family Flaviviridae. It is mainly transmitted by mosquitoes. The virus was first isolated in 1947 in a monkey in the Zika-Forest in Uganda, Africa. The virus is widespread in Africa and Southeast Asia. Major outbreaks of the virus in humans outside Africa and Southeast Asia occurred in 2007 on the island of Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean, in 2013 on other islands in the Pacific Ocean and especially from 2015 to 2017 in Central and South America.
In most cases, the Zika virus is transmitted by mosquito bites. Most frequently, mosquitoes of the genus Aedes carry the virus. This is particularly the case with the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti), which occurs in the tropics. However, it is also possible that other mosquitoes, such as the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus; occasionally also in Central Europe) can spread the virus. Zika virus can also be transmitted by sexual intercourse. Such transmission occurs primarily through sperm. Furthermore, the viruses have also been detected in blood, urine, amniotic fluid, saliva, as well as in the cerebrospinal fluid.
A disease caused by the Zika virus mainly manifests itself in skin rash, headache, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis and fever. The symptoms persist for about a week and occur three to 12 days after infection. Compared to other mosquito-transmitted infections, the symptoms are usually relatively mild, but can occasionally be fatal in severe pre-existing conditions. Then again, the symptoms do not occur in every infected person.
During pregnancy, an infection with the Zika virus can lead to brain malformations in the unborn child. This is particularly the case if the mother becomes infected in the first third of pregnancy. Rather rarely, infection with the Zika virus leads to Guillain-Barré syndrome.
No special hygiene measures are required when handling contact persons.
The required spectrum of action against the Zika virus is: limited virucidal